TAMIL NADU

Gopinatham keen on shedding Veerappan stigma

Gopinatham (Karnataka border) Jan. 28. The mood of the people of Gopinatham, the native village of the forest brigand Veerappan, seems to have undergone a sea change. For them, he is no more the modern day Robin Hood, but an extortionist, who is out to make money by foul means.

Hence, they would not mind passing on information to the STF, if they happen to see him. They believe that the village has acquired notoriety for his continuing misdeeds, and it is weighing down on them. They are at their wits' end on how to shed the stigma.

The people openly display the hurt sentiments, for, wherever they go, they are identified as "the people from the Veerappan village," and that makes them hang their heads in shame. Let it be 25-year-old K.Raja or the 60-year-old Madhu, the feeling is the same; for, they are looked at as suspects in the eyes of the security personnel and the people at large.

In reality, Veerappan, for the villagers, is evil-personified, who is ruining their life. They could not carry on cultivation, grazing and fishing and even their mobility has been affected. The STF personnel camping in the village have imposed restrictions on their movements during nightfor taking their cattle into the forests. All their coracles used for fishing have been impounded. A meeting held at Gopinatham by the STF yesterday could not have been possible but for the change of heart among the personnel and the people.

The security personnel have realised that without taking the people into confidence, they could not accomplish the task on hand. While the villagers say that unless and until the Veerappan era ends, they could not lead a normal life.

According to G.R.Nagarajan, member of the Kollegal Taluk Board, Gopinatham happens to fall in the Anoor Assembly constituency (of Karnataka), which returned the recently-executed former Minister, H. Nagappa. He provided schools and hospitals at Gopinatham, Pudur, Alambadi and Athoor and earned the goodwill of the people. His tragic end has shattered the village and when he was held hostage, the villagers went to Kamagere to console the family. They were denied entry, once it was known that they were from Gopinatham.

Hence, villagers are nursing a grievance against Veerappan who, in their view, has done precious little for the development of the village. The villagers deny that any of them is maintaining a supply and communication line with Veerappan, for it has been two decades since he set foot there.

If any one shares information on his whereabouts, it would not be for the money (the award of Rs. 5.50 crores announced by Karnataka), but only for the general wellbeing of the villagers and to help them restore normal life, the villagers say.

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